This paper focuses on Beilby Porteus, a bishop for the Church of England and a member of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts (SPG), and examines how he reconciled his position within the Church and his antislavery ideology. While the Church of England had not taken a stance for or against slavery, several of the SPG members were slaveholders. In fact, the SPG even had possession of a slave plantation in Barbados called the Codrington Plantation. Porteus had the opportunity to speak out against slavery while delivering the 1783 Anniversary Sermon to the SPG. In the sermon, he admonished the Church of England for not improving the condition and treatment of the slaves on the Codrington Plantation. He also pointed out suggestions for improving the treatment of those slaves.
There is no biography of Porteus, and some of the scholarly work on British abolitionism only mentions him briefly. His sermon to the SPG in 1783, however, sparked rebukes from SPG members. Furthermore, Porteus repeatedly challenged the treatment of the Codrington Plantation’s slaves, wrote essays to the SPG with recommendations for humane treatment of the slaves. He encouraged political initiatives, wrote extensively on the subject, and supported the sending of missionaries to Barbados and Jamaica. He was one of the highest bishops within the Church of England to participate in the abolitionist movement, and his antislavery work needs acknowledgment.
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